TAMPA (FOX 13) - LED Tampa, which is based in Clearwater, has lit up signs in Florida since 1982. But, all it took was one wrong click on a video link two years ago to put them in the dark for days.
"It said your files have been encrypted. And, in order to get your files unencrypted, you have to pay us a ransom," said LED Tampa Owner Jim Ullery.
They'd been targeted by ransomware.
"We couldn't produce business here because we couldn't access any data," Ullery said. "It was painful, it was painful."
Now, "WannaCry" is latest ransomware to turn its victims' worlds upside down. "This is a picture of what you may get: "oops your files have been encrypted," said Doug Sliman as he pointed at his computer.
The ransomware attack "WannaCry" has infected hundreds of thousands of computers around the world.
It can happen to anyone, whether you're with a Fortune 500 company or you're using your home laptop.
How you prepare or immediately respond can determine the type of damage you experience.
Sliman is Vice President of Operations at CIO Tech in Tampa.
According to the pop-up, in order to unlock your files, you must fork over $300. As the clock ticks, the price doubles, and eventually, your files vanish.
"You're dealing with crooks, is essentially, what it is," Sliman said.
Here's what to do.
"Disconnect yourself from the internet, from your network so nothing else potentially can get infected," Sliman said.
Step two, call a computer expert that may have the key.
"A lot of times, there's encryption, de-encryption algorithms we can use to restore their data," said Sliman.
If all else fails, and you don't have backup, you may think about paying. Unfortunately, that's no guarantee access will be restored.
To avoid trouble altogether, Sliman says never click unfamiliar links or email attachments. Also, disable macros in email attachments, which can embed code that can execute malware. And, keep your operating system up-to-date with the latest anti-virus software and security patches. Microsoft released one for windows back in March. If you haven't updated yet, you're at risk.
These attacks are constantly evolving. While you can't predict what's next, experts say you can protect your data. Back up your important files as often as possible. And, keep them on a device separate from your computer and network.